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Gay and Lesbian Video Game Characters: LGBT Themes In Modern Games

Updated on March 24, 2013
Len Cannon profile image

Len is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York and has had a fascination with games and media that has lasted a lifetime.

Traditionally, gamers haven't always been the most accepting bunch. Sure, you'll find plenty of open-minded folk who are hardcore gamers, but it doesn't take long to find out that an extremely vocal section of the video game fandom aren't always very accepting of the LGBT population. Spend twenty minutes in Call of Duty and you'll probably be called several varieties of anti-homosexual slurs before the first match even ends.

That's why it is so noteworthy when developers include gay or lesbian characters in their video games. Already under represented in most forms of media, queer video game characters are the rarest of the rare. The testosterone driven fanbase just isn't into man-on-man action. Defying convention, here are a few of the openly gay characters to be found in video games.

And before you ask, this is only a list of characters you can play, so no Gay Tony.

Joachim from Shadow Hearts 2 (not pictured: his magical butterfly superhero mask)
Joachim from Shadow Hearts 2 (not pictured: his magical butterfly superhero mask)

Joachim (Shadow Hearts 2)

Shadow Hearts 2 was pretty out there. Among the playable characters that would join your party in this PS2 RPG were a magical wolf, Russian princess Anastasia, and an old man who uses puppets to kill enemies. But the most remarkable of all of them was Joachim, a gay wrestler/vampire/super hero. SH2 makes it fairly clear early on that Joachim is willing to take a walk on the wild side.

One of the most openly gay video game characters, there is even a major sidequest that ends with Joachim having a homosexual encounter with his Turkish wrestling teacher. Although the game is fairly progressive, that doesn't stop the other characters from reacting with disgust.

Joachim isn't the only gay character in Shadow Hearts 2, either. A pair of gay shopkeepers will trade you new dresses for your magical doll in exchange for gay pornography. Shadow Hearts 2 is amazing.

Shadow Hearts 2: The Man Festival (Really, really, gay)

Zevran and Leliana (Dragon Age Origins)

Okay, technically they're both bisexual. Bioware has done a good job of including LGBT characters in their games. In the original Mass Effect , female players were able to enter into a lesbian relationship with one of the NPCs. However, plans to include a male/male option were dropped due to perceived lack of interest in the gaming community.

Not so in Dragon Age . Male players could chat up the sexually promiscuous elf Zevran while ladies could find comfort in the arms of bard-turned-nun Leliana. Dragon Age is remarkable in that it doesn't shy away from the bedroom portion of relationships, either. Whether gay or straight, the game is willing to show lovemaking scenes without turning its head.

Little is known about what direction Dragon Age 2 will take in regards to character romances, but the first game in the series is remarkable for including such strong gay and lesbian game characters.

Of course, since you can enter into a relationship with either of them, your own main character could be gay as well. But since that is entirely dependent on how you play the game, we'll just let instances of incidental homosexuality from PC's slide.

Kanji: Pretty much definitely gay, don't fight me on this
Kanji: Pretty much definitely gay, don't fight me on this

Kanji (Persona 4)

In Persona 4, all of the characters end up exploring dark dungeon versions of what they really are on the inside. Some are warped versions of children's fantasies, others bizarre romantic dreams, and then... there's Kanji. A local tough and a bully, when you visit Kanji's inner world, you'd expect to find something violent, maybe something about a brutal childhood.

What you actually find is a gay bathhouse.While inside his this world of his own creation, Kanji becomes a bit of a prancing pony.  He openly extols the virtues of gay sex several times and is pretty much a walking, talking stereotype.

Some fans will read into the scene that it is just a reflection of his fear over being emasculated for liking arts and crafts, but there are other hints in the game. He's scared and intrigued when male characters ask to meet him alone. He has an odd sleepover with the main character. This and other signs seem to point to Kanji's subtext being just plain text.

Kanji is one of the most unique homosexual video game characters ever. He's tough, brash, and his sexuality is actually very important to the storyline. He's ambiguous enough that he won't offend overt bigots but obvious enough that he's not fooling anybody except himself.

Kanji is not subtle

Rain and Hana (Fear Effect 2)

This one is going way back.  Fear Effect 2 is an early PS1-era action game.  At the time, it was announced that the saucy leading lady would be getting a lesbian love interest.  At the time, it was all the talk.  Today, it is mostly a yawner.

The relationship was aimed mainly towards male titillation rather than making any real attempt at inclusiveness. Still, it is probably one of the earliest examples of an out homosexual character in a mainstream video game.

Zangief Wrestles Bears. Unclear whether they also wear leather.
Zangief Wrestles Bears. Unclear whether they also wear leather.

Zangeif (Street Fighter Series)

In Japanese culture, the American conception of masculinity is their version of flaming queens.  Big muscles and hairy chests? Super queer.  Wrestling? Gayest of the gay.

So, it comes as no surprise that Street Fighter's Zangief is intended to be homosexual.  Capcom has, in the past, even stated that it was their intention that Zangief be a representatives of the gay community in video games.

They have since backed off that statement, giving him a few female love interests which have never really stuck.  Through it all, he's remained the same giant Russian bear wrestler (*COUGH*) who just loves pile driving the world warriors between his thighs.

Games where YOU'RE gay (sometimes)

A number of games also allow players to engage in same sex relationships.  These are only choices and these games always feature the option to play as a heterosexual character as well.  In addition to the aforementioned Dragon Age and Mass Effect titles, here are a few games where your lead character can be gay.

  • Bully- Bully raised a bit of a commotion when the mainstream media found out that your character could make out with boys AND girls if he was so inclined.  It was a major scuttlebutt at the time, but not actually important to the game.  Who you make out with doesn't actually effect the storyline in any significant way.
  • The Sims Series - Anyone can make out with anyone in The Sims.  Even more important, gay video game characters can get married in this popular series.  No one seems to comment on it, either, so it seems like homophobia is dead in this video game universe, at least.
  • Fallout 2 - Not only can your male character get involved with another male character in Fallout 2, you can get married.  Unlike other video games, however, other characters will acknowledge your sexual orientation.  And, unfortunately, like real life, most of these interactions will be negative.
  • Fable - Another sandbox game where you can marry just about anyone you choose, male or female.  There are plenty of gay and lesbian game relationships to peruse in this game.  Once again, the actual sexuality of your characters will never be addressed by anyone in game.  It is simply something that provides the player with more options.


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    • MoonRaye profile image

      MoonRaye 3 years ago from Florida

      Very interesting Hub! And my mother always gets confused when she's playing Sims 3 and sees two Sims (whether they're her own or neighbors) of the same sex flirting with each other. It's hilarious she hasn't gotten the idea yet.

      I actually had no idea about Zangief.. he was one of my favorite characters to play in Street Fighter! For some reason, this just makes him more awesome. Haha. An excellent read, to be sure.

    • profile image

      Ikari 4 years ago

      LGBT themes... do not forget the T counts too!

      Examples of transgender characters in games includes Birdo from the Super Mario Series, Vivian the ghost from Paper Mario, and Poison from Final Fight and Street Fighter.

    • chadwiki profile image

      Chad Davis 4 years ago

      What a great hub. I had no idea these themes existed in so many games. :D Tagging as "Awesome". Thanks!

    • Grab a Controller profile image

      Hannah 5 years ago from Largo, FL

      I absolutely love this hub! I never realized that about Zangief, but looking at the list gave me second thoughts. Also in the movie "Wreck-it Ralph," he talks a LOT about crushing heads between his thighs in the "Bad Anon" scene...

    • johndnathan profile image

      John D Nathan 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas. USA

      Great hub. Generally when an openly gay character is introduced in a game if he is male he appears very stereotypical e.g. Bernie Crane from GTA IV, the Minister of Culture's love interest in Deus Ex 2, the male romance option in Fable.

      I would like to see more gay characters that resemble real-life gay people, i.e. they look and act like everyone else except for their taste in romance.

    • profile image

      heyyyy 6 years ago

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      meee 6 years ago

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      mee 6 years ago

      great list: very comprehensive. Also check out Orange Oil Termite Treatment and Halo Reach Pictures.

    • profile image

      ashby 6 years ago


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      skottyboy 6 years ago

      hey if you play the ps1 final fantasy 7 as cloud you dress up as a girl and have a 1 nighter wth a big guy.. who in turn says you where great after passing out. i know this doesn't count as him being gay in any real way. but it is a fun lil fact... he doesn't seem to bent outta shape ether...XD

    • topwords profile image

      topwords 7 years ago

    • Pente profile image

      Pente 7 years ago from Planet Earth

      Shadow hearts 2 made me laugh so hard! My wife loved it too. Diversity just makes the world a better place.

    • profile image

      oragami speaks 2 u 7 years ago

      i luv the sims dis is graet!

    • profile image

      amin jiii 7 years ago

      Civilization Revolution, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, Call Of Duty: Black Ops, Fifa 11, Killzone 3, Medal Of honour Best PS3 Games But PC games has got be the Total War series.

    • rgarnett profile image

      Rachael Fields 7 years ago from KC, MO

      I love the Sims and Fable. Both places I had same sex relationships. I haven't tried any of the other games, but my partner will be interested in them I am sure. :) Thanks for sharing. I was unaware that there were so rarely GBLT people in video games.

    • profile image

      bob 7 years ago

      how did you miss the ballad of gay tony?

      GTA IV addon DLC?!??!?!

    • profile image

      RavenWolfx 7 years ago

      Shadow Hearts 2 was one of the best games of all time and Joachim was funny as hell. But you forgot to mention that his Super Hero persona is named Grand Papillon. Papillon is french for Butterfly and he wears a freakin' butterfly mask.

    • profile image

      Alex 7 years ago

      Hey, I'm all for Variety. Different people is what makes the world interesting. Goes to reason if you fill up a video game with a bunch of people with the same personalities, it's going to be a little less entertaining.

    • girlincape profile image

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      Good to see some video games that value character development and aren't afraid to show it!